group of the former Soviet republics with common geopolitical
characteristics is located in central Asia. It includes the four
newly independent states of Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan,
and Tajikistan. Their geographical position makes them a buffer zone
separating Russia from direct contact with the Islamic countries of
Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan, and also from India and China.
themselves gravitate toward an Islamic orientation. The ethnic,
religious, and political makeup of these countries, in particular,
of Tajikistan, do not augur well for their long-term stability. The
chief cause of the region’s volatility is ideological pressures
generated by Islamic fundamentalism.
breakup of the USSR local Communist elites jettisoned the Communist
ideology and managed to preserve their dominant position. On the
whole, they remain friendly and loyal to their big northern
neighbor. The four states also retain substantial Russian-speaking
populations. The alliance with Russia helps them to keep in check a
potentially explosive situation within their own borders.
Tajikistan, which has suffered from a violent civil war between
Islamic fundamentalists and government forces, has accepted a status
akin to that of a protectorate of Russia.
impossible to predict how long the present pragmatically minded
politicians will remain in power in these states. Russia is
obviously interested in preserving the buffer of stable central
Asian republics as a shield against Islamic fundamentalism. The
recent acquisition by India and Pakistan of nuclear weapons has been
another dangerous development in the area.